Dec
31

Lies, Damned Lies and Statistics

Stay On Target - Gold Five

I am a numbers fanatic.  In fact, I'd pick numbers over people nine times out of ten. 

Numbers are safe and logical.  They aren't prone to fits of rage or loneliness, and they don't mock you or tell you "I told you so" when you make a mistake – they just wait with endless patience until you figure things out for yourself.

And I can predict the future with charts and spreadsheets. 

Oh how I had a lovely spreadsheet once, and into that loyal and trustworthy file I dutifully tallied all the words that I wrote each day.  The trouble was, the numbers weren't very large and the entries weren't very frequent and eventually my spreadsheet started predicting things that I wished it wouldn't.

Clearly more numbers were required so I added new calculations with stacked area charts and trend line analyses... but the overall pattern didn't change.

The rough math was simple enough:  30 chapters at 3000 characters each meant the overall target was 90,000 words.  So on any given New Year's Eve, I had only 12 more months to get the rest of those 90,000 words written.

I started writing the book in May 2012.  By New Year's of that year, I had 23,856 words, 84 pages and almost 8 chapters done and the goal was to finish the first draft before the end of 2013.  But the math told me I had to pick up the pace to do so.

I kept it up for all of about a month.  Then there was nothing.  Lots of nothing.  Then a mild resurgence in May.  Then back to nothing. 

By New Year's Eve 2013, I had a grand total of 28,146 words written – I'd written barely 4,000 words that entire year. 

My official resolution for 2014 would be far more modest:  #1) write a chapter; #2) repeat.  But of course, on the inside the goal was the same: finish the first draft before the end of the next year. 

Again, I kept pace for January 2014...  Then months of nothing.  Then a quick flurry of activity in May when I realized how much time had actually past...  Then more nothing. 

My spreadsheet saw the lack-of-writing on the wall before I did.

In 2012, I'd been accountable to someone else: my mentor.  I owed her about a chapter a month and I forced myself to meet those deadlines come hell or high water.  But then, once the writing process was established and the plotline was set, I was off on my own... with only a polite and gentle spreadsheet to wield the whip.

The things I loved most about numbers were my continuing downfall.  My spreadsheet didn't send me emails pressuring me to get my ass in gear.  And I didn't spare one single thought about how disappointed my charts might be if they didn't have any new entries to depict this month.

In the Fall I joined a writers' Facebook group for moral support.  The shared goal was to write something each day.  No excuses.  And we would report our progress to each other as we went. 

I didn't make it a month.  My muse isn't that faithful apparently. 

I went back to my spreadsheets and shifted focus.  I was setting myself up to fail.  I couldn't bank on writing productively every day.  Hell, I couldn't bank on writing productively every week.  And some of my most productive days didn't result in any increase in word count because they were spent tearing existing content apart.  So I changed focus.  Instead of word targets, I gave myself chapter deadlines again, just like I'd had when I started in 2012.

In September 2014, I had 14 chapters written (140 pages and 38,833 words) and my new goal was to have the first draft completed by my 40th birthday (August 2015).  This worked out to a new chapter about every 20 days, which for once actually seemed like a feasible target to me.  Each incremental deadline was spaced wide enough apart that I could account for life's gotchas and my periodic bouts of lack-of-inspiration while still maintaining hope that a few weekends of binge-writing would let me stay on track (which, honestly, was how I operated best apparently... at least if my stats were to be believed).

It's been a few months.  It's New Year's Eve 2014.  I have 19 chapters written (187 pages and 51,673 words) and so far I've stayed on target.

Gold Five would be proud.

Goals are dreams with deadlines.

[NOTE: image taken from startupnation.com]

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